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Napa County law enforcement raid clandestine marijuana farm worth $2 million

Authorities arrested men from Petaluma and Wisconsin who were tending to about 1,000 plants in greenhouses near Lake Berryessa.|

Napa County authorities last week arrested two men connected with a large clandestine marijuana farm built into the hills near Lake Berryessa.

The greenhouse operation, with an estimated worth of $2 million, and the men arrested at the remote site - Victor Johnsen, 31, of Petaluma and Jared Schuppe, 19, of La Pointe, Wis. - appear to have ties to suspected pot-growing schemes in Sonoma and San Mateo counties, Napa police Lt. Gary Pitkin said.

The greenhouses were found nestled between vineyards and public land on private property off Sage Canyon Road about ?12 miles east of Rutherford. They were spotted during a reconnaissance flight funded by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There are claims that it is related to medicinal use and we’re investigating those claims,” Pitkin said. “We have no information or evidence to suggest they have permission or consent from the owner to grow on the property.”

Pitkin said a team of Napa police officers and Napa County sheriff’s deputies visited the site early Wednesday and found what appeared to be a set of four greenhouses ?with about 1,000 well-tended plants.

A specialist estimated each plant might yield two pounds of dried bud, which at $1,000 per pound could be worth $2 million, Pitkin said.

Officers arrested Schuppe in a greenhouse and Johnsen near sleeping quarters. Both men surrendered without incident, Pitkin said.

Napa County engineering and environmental workers are investigating what appeared to be illegal grading and water diversion at the site. The group found a large tractor near the greenhouses as well as two large bladders holding “several thousands of gallons of water,” Pitkin said.

The property is owned by an out-of-state corporation, Pitkin said. He declined to name the corporation.

Johnsen and Schuppe remained in custody Saturday at the Napa County jail on suspicion of marijuana cultivation, possession of marijuana for sale and conspiracy, records show.

On Thursday, the narcotics team visited properties outside Sebastopol and La Honda where they found additional “evidence of marijuana trafficking,” Pitkin said. The lieutenant said he couldn’t describe that evidence while they are still looking for possible co-conspirators.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.

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